El Paso, Texas
for Tiger Barbs
I have had a school of 21 tiger
barbs Puntius tetrazona in a
tank for about half a year now,
and there is never a dull day with them.
Recently I decided to add new tankmates
to the school, but no one seems to agree
on the aggressiveness of tiger barbs, and
I therefore haven’t been able to choose
suitable tankmates. What fish do you think
will do well with the school?
The problem is that you have
put the tiger barbs in the tank
first, and they’ve had about six
months to grow and become a
oblem to many kinds of fish that
you could normally keep with tiger barbs (if
the barbs were put in afterward). Even neons
and other small tetras can be kept with tiger
barbs, especially in a large tank, as long as
the neons are placed in the tank first and
allowed to acclimate themselves to the new
environment. It would have been perfect if you
had placed 21 neons Paracheirodon innesi
in the tank and allowed them to grow out for
about six months instead of the tiger barbs.
But now if you want to keep other small fish
with your already-established tiger barbs, it
will be a questionable situation for them.
Still, you have one thing going for you:
you do have a large school of tiger barbs, and
that helps diffuse some of their aggression
and playfulness. You might be able to get
by with putting in six or more jewel tetras
Hyphessobrycon eques, or even neons, but
you’ll have to watch the situation closely
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and be ready to remove the newcomers if it
appears that the tiger barbs are giving them
You should be all right with other robust barbs
like cherry or black ruby barbs, and if you are
willing to keep some cichlids, certainly a few
convict cichlids or firemouths Thorichthys
meeki will not be bothered by the tiger barbs.
But if you want to put any small tetras in the
tank, it could be a dicey situation.
I’ve heard that piranhas are
disappointing as display fish.
Is that really true?
It is true that if you keep only
one specimen of many species of
piranha that the fish will simply
hang in the water, not doing
ng matters even worse is that these
lone specimens can be quite easily frightened,
ruining their reputation as killer fish.
However, any curator of public aquariums
knows that the freshwater fish most in demand
for display is the piranha. That’s because books
and movies portray piranhas as fish that will
quickly skeletonize any animal—including
humans—that are unfortunate enough to fall
into their waters. That reputation is quite
a bit overblown, but it is fixed in the public
mentality. Because of that image, piranhas
are outlawed for aquarium use in many states
where they could never survive, were they
to be released. That is plain silly, but it
shows how hysteria drives our lawmakers
into placing foolish and unnecessary laws on
the books. Ichthyologists and naturalists know